As Lisa and I enter our fourth month away from home we continue to feel God’s blessing and providence in our journey. Never before in our marriage have we had to rely so heavily upon one another and our bond has never been greater. This adventure has been the best marriage enrichment we have ever experienced. I take her to work in the morning – find ways to stay busy during the day and then genuinely look forward to seeing her in the afternoon and to hear about her work day.
In recent days I have had to deal with a little homesickness and feeling a little out of sorts personally. The job offer I wrote about recently really messed with me as I have gone through a tormenting season of doubt about that decision. In the end it came down to Lisa and I continuing this incredible opportunity or going back to what I am familiar and comfortable with. That is not an easy decision.
I have been reading (for probably the tenth time) Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. I can relate so well with Bilbo. Not only do we share the same birthday (September 22nd – which, by the way I appreciate all the Facebook birthday wishes) but we also share the same longing for home, the comfortable chair, hearth and happiness that is the familiar place of our “shire”. As I was reading I came across a passage that spoke to my feelings and gave me encouragement. Gandalf, the wizard and protector of the group, readies himself to leave them to their journey and has to answer their questions as to why he must leave and how will they manage without him.
“So cheer up Bilbo and don’t look so glum. Cheer up Thorin and Company! This is your expedition after all. Think of the treasure at the end, and forget the forest and the dragon, at any rate until tomorrow!”
This is our journey. God has set us on this path and I cannot allow my own self doubts or hurt pride cloud that thinking. Lisa has thrived at Hanover Hospital and the skills she has acquired over nearly three decades has really helped people here. My being with her to support her has made that possible. For now I realize I have to forget about the forests and dragons and look to the treasure – whatever it will be. But I have to remember – this is our journey.
Later Gandalf tells Bilbo, who is doubtful about getting through the dark and dangerous Mirkwood forest, – “Straight through the forest is your way now. Don’t stray off track!” Bilbo fearing the unknown dangers that lie ahead asks, “Do we really have to go through?” And Gandalf answers, “Yes you do! If you want to get to the other side. You must go through or give up your quest.”
I underlined that entire section of the book as it spoke to me about this “season” of my soul that has been filled with doubt, fear, longing for the familiar and certainty of the known versus the unknown. This journey has at the end a treasure that we can only obtain by stepping out on faith and heading into the dark forest. If we want to get through it we “must go” or “give up our quest.”
So our adventure continues here in central Pennsylvania until the end of October and possibly beyond. From there we are not sure where the path will lead. But we will not give up our quest. And although the treasure in the end is a little hard to see – it may be expressed best in Bilbo himself.
At the end of the story of his journey, Gandalf looks at Bilbo and remarks, “My dear Bilbo! You are not the hobbit that you were.” And knowing this journey is changing Lisa and I as well as the people we meet – may be the greatest treasure of all.
Take care of things back in the “Shire” and we’ll see you soon!
Steve and Lisa